Mashka Wolfe, Actor & TikToker, Tells Her Story As A Russian Refugee In The Entertainment Industry
Please introduce yourself, what you do, why you do it, and what you want people to know about you.
My name is Mashka Wolfe, and I’m an actor, writer, and producer. I’ve been a member of The Actors Gang, a theater company in Culver City for the past 8 years. In 2019 I went on tour to South America with The New Colossus, a play directed by Tim Robbins about the refugee experience.
In 2020, just before the world shut down for the pandemic, we toured 8 cities in the US and brought the play to an even bigger audience.
I’ve also written, produced, and starred in a TV show pitch called Y2K Babes with executive producer Macauley Culkin. I started out as an actor because I love theater, and I started writing because I wasn’t getting cast in projects and I wanted to create my own so that I could act in them.
I’m in my early thirties now, and I feel like a lot of actresses my age worry about aging out of the industry. But I want everyone to know that I’m totally okay with playing the funny mom on a sitcom.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I’m a refugee. My family came to the US from Russia in 1994 on a refugee visa because of the persecution of Soviet Jews. I didn’t use to talk about that or tell people about it. I tried to be like everyone else. I tried to emulate the people that I saw that were successful, but it never worked. When I started talking about being a refugee, when I started sharing my experience, that’s when people started to pay attention.
I wrote about my mother’s experience for the play I was in, The New Colossus, along with other actors who wrote about family members and ancestors who were refugees. That play was wildly successful and I got to fulfill my dream of traveling the world as a working actor.
I started a TikTok during the pandemic, and at first, I just made funny videos. But then I made one about Soviet Era films that I like and it blew up. Ever since then I’ve been making TikToks about Soviet films and what life was like in the Soviet Union. I’ve got 25 thousand followers and close to 100 thousand views on every video.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you wanted to do what you do now. Who did you tell first? What has it been like since that moment?
I was in high school and I joined the improv club because my best friend joined. We would perform in this little club in Westwood by the UCLA campus. And people would actually laugh at some of my jokes! So then I majored in theater in college.
It’s been 10 years of auditions and classes and lots of rejections, punctuated by some very awesome projects. That’s what acting is
like. Very low lows and very high highs. There’s not a lot of middle ground to it.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
Even though I grew up in Los Angeles, I didn’t really have any connections in the entertainment industry. There’s this idea in our society that the entertainment industry is very open and merit-based. That anyone can succeed if they’re talented and hard-working enough. But that’s just not the case. It’s actually very closed.
If you look at most young actors who are successful, you’ll see they have a relative that’s a producer or director. It’s tough to break into that circle. But with the rise of social media stars moving to film and television, you could say that it’s gotten a bit more democratic.
If you had to pick the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could take your career (or business) to the next level…who would those 3 people be?
I would love to meet Seth McFarland. He created one of my favorite shows, The Orville. It’s more Star Trek than the new Star Trek movies. The new movies aren’t really science fiction anymore. It’s more like action adventure set in the future.
Science fiction is supposed to make a comment about our society through the lens of science, or explore a moral dilemma that arises because of technology, or at least that’s what Star Trek used to do. The Orville does that and it adds comedy, which is just amazing. I would love to write and act on that show.
It would be great to meet anyone at Blumhouse, because I love horror and I want to pitch my period horror script to them. I likely won’t know the name of the best person to take my career to the next level, they work behind the scenes as development executives, casting directors, and producers.